The Haircut That Ate Kew Trinity Grammar

Oh, down at the catching pen an old shearer stands,
Grasping his shears in his long bony hands

Click goes his shears; click, click, click.
Wide are the blows, and his hand is moving quick

   ~ 1891 lyrics

A nation born of wool harvesting was delighted to hear the shears a-clickin’ at Melbourne’s Trinity Grammar School (TGS) that fateful day.

The ringer was “beloved” deputy head Rohan Brown. The cobbler? A rebellious young scruffy from TGS’s manful herd.

Throsby, like any inquiring citizen of this wide brown Dorothean land, grew obsessed by a slow-motion implosion of elite academia.

Great revolutions feature a spark of insignificant trivia, a fuse of pent-up passion, and a usually disproportionate detonation. Thusly the dominos fell when Mr Brown cut a student’s hair in the school grounds before his gasping, giggling school chums.

We accept that uncontrolled cocktails of passion course through bodies of adolescent young men. But parents’ unbridled zeal, defending some esoteric non-pedagogic nurturing holistic orthodoxy, both startles and baffles us when it infects our superiors.

Yet it was, and still is, a great show, and one that keeps on giving.

Deputy Brown broke silence early last week to laud and sooth the troubled lads. To the school captain and his four lieutenants he crooned:

Your strength of character, love of the school, and leadership is very evident and I would wholeheartedly support you ensuring the boys are back in uniform… it must be very trying, confusing and difficult for the five of you.”

[Thros wishes readers to note that in his day, his fearsome deputy headmaster would have determinedly returned to work, just for the satisfaction of giving “the five of you” six of the best and a month’s detention.]

Saint Kevin Intervenes

A new phase began when the commentariat pendulum swung in favour of Michael Davies, Trinity Grammar School’s principal. His former colleagues at St Kevin’s College signalled the media that Dr. Michael is a most decent bloke.

Dr Michael Davies and his family have been for many years, and remain, deeply respected and fondly regarded members of the St Kevin’s College community and the broader Edmund Rice Education Australia family.

Dr Davies was a staff member at St Kevin’s from July 1996 until the end of the 2013 academic year. His final position was that of Deputy Headmaster, which he carried out with distinction exercising good judgement and compassion.

Student and staff welfare was always uppermost in his mind and reflected in his actions. Prior to this, Michael was an innovative Director of Studies who enlivened teaching practice throughout the College. His own teaching of Physics at a senior level was of the highest order, producing remarkable results from boys across all ability ranges. As a House Head, he cared for the boys and the staff of McCarthy House with pastoral insight, constant action and their holistic development as his key concern. He was a dynamic Head of Science.

Michael was always involved in the Social Justice Programs of the College and contributed wholeheartedly to the co-curricular and outdoor education. He remains a highly esteemed colleague.

Thros was encouraged that the broad text of the epistle was criticised on only two occasions by his word processor’s gramma check. It wanted a comma after “Deputy Headmaster” and reprimanded “reflexive pronoun use” in the sentence leading with “His own teaching.” Well done staffers, but you should code those corrections into the cookie cutter student reference generator used for this invigorating defence. (And, yes, the checker exasperatedly face palms and underlines just about everything Throsby writes… as you probably noticed).

The 152 Society

More scuttlebutt, fly on the wall stuff, found its way into The Age from an anonymous former teacher – perhaps soon to be unmasked should the TGS student CSI fan clubbers whiteboard those data-matching identifiers he or she kindly provided.

The teacher is a strong defender of Michael Davies, and:

  • …a former teacher at Trinity Grammar (for five years during this decade) …
  • I know of at least one teacher who was moved on because she …
  • …among the supposed 152 staff who left during Davies’s tenure …
  • …chose not to write this article under my real name for fear of losing Trinity Grammar as a reference on my CV.

Strong condemnations of both the author for cowardice and The Age for publishing poured forth - though it mattered not that those opinions are partisan concoctions, because they succinctly offer Empire views against the rebels.

Our teacher snapped when (on Wednesday 21st March) a billboard truck circled Kew’s elite precincts brandishing astoundingly large electronic screens showing poor old Michael Davies’ visage struck out by a giant red cross beside a quotation hoping to highlight his hypocrisy – tenuously inferred, might I say. An excitable screen at the rear variously flashed establishment mug shots.

While the former TSG educator lauds Michael Davies, reflects kindly on Rohan Brown, and commiserates with the students’ dilemma – that “awful message” indelible upon such tender years – he, or she, savaged the “Salem-esque witch hunt” by some parents and some Old Grammarians.

NewsCorpse successfully kindles then fuels, worldwide, an insane hatred of Muslims within its white nominally Christian but-now-really-godless readers. Yet Throsby – all of us, dare I suggest – would never imagine religious rivalries from last century still at play within our revered upper crust.

TSG’s anonymous ex-educator warns of…

…misgivings among parents and staff about what appointing a presumed Roman Catholic would do to the Anglican school’s fabric – misgivings that bordered on old-fashioned bigotry. And I can’t help but wonder – given the leanings of some of the school’s leaders – that his lack of Masonic credentials was an issue within some of the school’s darker reaches.

Masonic credentials. Darker reaches. Well done, I say! A welcome addition to the scandal. Nor did The Age’s subby misstep by highlighting that gem in 20 point bold italics. Wonderful stuff.

However, a line is sorely overstepped when you and I are accused of enjoying the spectacle of rich brats and their wealthy progenitors behaving like commoners.

The media and the readers, too, have to take a long, hard look at themselves over this tawdry affair. If this incident happened at, say, a state school in the north-west suburbs, would it have grabbed this many column inches? Are you kidding? It would be lucky if it gained a mention in the local paper no matter what the student response was to their favourite staff member’s sacking. Our voyeurism at how the upper crust lives is a poor reflection on us as a whole.

Au contraire. It’s an embodiment of our cherished rascally roots. Besides, tawdry affairs are our business model.

Enter Jane Austen

The emblazoned billboard truck, that we fear cruelly humiliated tender young men passing to and from the grandeur of the Tudor Centre that fateful day, bore a now infamous Jane Austen Pride and Prejudice quote:

It’s a truth universally acknowledged that a single man in possession of a good fortune must be in want of a wife.

Our incognito instructor above, certified member of the 152, waxed savagely a line or two on the “bullying bordering upon thuggery to bring Davies to his knees,” and that the Austen quote was:

…shamefully and falsely attempting to paint Davies as a homophobe over a Jane Austen quote he made…”

We Sheepophiles, enjoying an entirely different state of the commonwealth not privy to Kew scuttlebutt or first-hand informants, find an allegation of homophobia in this context passing at considerable altitude over our innocent heads. Anyone?

The agitators, on the other hand, felt this quotation certifies Dr Davies and his “18th century values” inapt for a “progressive school community.” A rather surprising accusation, considering the college incessantly promotes arcane history and traditional values, all of which are Davies’ inheritance, not instigation.

A Latin school motto, Viriliter Agite‎, urges young scholars to act manfully. My grammar checker reckons that should be “act resolutely.” Good advice, especially of late. The school slogan (for budding Young Liberal Party neocon frat boys, sloganeering is a skill set) boasts “Growing Exceptional Young Men.”

Archdeacon Hindley wrote of Trinity Grammar in 1903, “The School has been founded for the training of gentlemen, scholars and Christians.”

Dr Davies was commissioned as Headmaster of Trinity Grammar by Archbishop Philip Freier in a “magnificent ceremony” at St Paul’s Cathedral. He was presented with various symbols of office by Trinity staff, students, parents, Old Boys and the School Council. Former Head Mr Rick Tudor gave him a Bible symbolising “the faith and values upon which the School is founded.”

And seditionists insult Michael Davies for “18th century values”?

They accuse him of veering the school off course into the realm of ATARs, KPIs, buildings, marketing, and many distasteful real-world matters, and away from good old-fashioned holistic nurturing. The school should not be run like a business, it should continue…

…the holistic development of each student – spiritually, emotionally, intellectually, physically, socially, and morally".

Michael Davies took the reigns in February 2014 and his first address – in which the infamous Austen reference appeared – congratulated the 2013 year 12 “cohort” for their ATAR magnificence. This rather weakens claims he is taking the school down a path of academic excellence all on his ownsome. As does:

Dr Davies, in conjunction with the School Executive, will be well on the way to establishing his vision for the School. This vision will build upon the 15 years of Mr Tudor’s leadership of Trinity Grammar.

~ The Trinity Grammarian, Vol 29 No 1 — PDF document   

From the Headmaster

What was Michael Davies really getting at with that Jane Austen quote? In the same issue of the Grammarian, Dr Davies greeted his new school (very abridged):

Summer is a time of books. …
Great first lines are crucial in any narrative. …
I want to be drawn in from the opening gambit. …
Well-known opening lines in western literature are as memorable as the notable lines from modern films; often quoted, often inaccurately, they herald celebrated works by the distinguished writers of the ages.

Perhaps one of the most popular opening lines gives a great insight for our boys. Men of Trinity, all in possession of a good fortune – a Trinity education – should heed the opening words of Jane Austen in Pride and Prejudice: ‘It is a truth universally acknowledged that a single man in possession of a good fortune must be in want of a wife.’

I have been pondering great opening lines lately as I start this chapter of my life at Trinity.

And we are still pondering that particular one.

Although Dr Davies’ letter to the school was at pains to cover many topics and to introduce his inner self in an affable, if too literary, tone, his message in the Jane Austen line was lost in confusion – though admittedly, until he spells it out in pleasant conversation over a fine whisky, the confusion is all mine.

Does he mean a good education makes you want to get married?

Or was the good doctor was telling his manful young charges that their gentile upbringing in an all-male school will send them – bearers of their parents’ good seed and copious fortunes (farcically obfuscated as a “Trinity education”) – into a dangerous world where women beguile them to get at their money.

I say, chaps, good luck and watch out for those greedy sluts.

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